It’s that time of year again when celebrations and tempting goodies challenge will power and plans to eat healthy. With the holiday season in full swing, we are constantly reminded of the approximately 3,000 calories and 200 grams of fat found in the average holiday meal. For most Americans, these meals usually consist of traditional pies, cakes, casseroles, stuffing and many other fat and starch-laden foods. Yet many holiday foods, when eaten in moderation, can nourish and fuel our bodies. Consider cooking these tasty super foods at your holiday get-togethers to create a delicious, well-balanced holiday plate!
1. Try Traditional Turkey Breast
While other traditional meats like prime rib or ham are rich in fat, white roasted turkey meat is lean and nutrient rich, providing protein, iron, zinc, potassium and B vitamins. A three-ounce portion of skinless turkey breast contains approximately 100 calories and less than two grams of fat. Plus, turkey is delicious and a versatile meat to use for leftovers.
2. Go Green
Low in calories and packed with vitamins and cholesterol-reducing fiber, green beans deserve a place on the holiday table; just be careful how you serve them. Prepare green bean casserole with healthy ingredients such as olive oil, minced garlic, or julienne-sliced onions to enjoy the taste without the guilt.
3. Savor the Sweet Potato
Providing more than 50 percent of the Recommended Daily Allowance of vitamin C per three ounces, sweet potatoes not only taste great, but can keep us healthy throughout the holiday season. They are a versatile food that can be prepared in many different ways. Kick off your holiday meal with sweet potato bisque, serve sweet potato soufflé on the side, or round off dinner with sweet potato pie.
4. Nog With Care
Eggnog is a traditional holiday favorite utilizing milk, which contains protein and eight other essential vitamins and minerals. To reduce fat and calories, choose low-fat eggnog. For those that are lactose intolerant, you can still enjoy eggnog season with lactose-free varieties. Sprinkle with cinnamon and nutmeg to complete this festive drink.
5. Go Greek
Low-fat Greek yogurt is an excellent substitute for heavy cream and butter in many traditional recipes. Greek yogurt is thick, creamy, and a less calorically dense ingredient to incorporate into your entrées and side dishes. Not to mention, this versatile dairy product is chock-full of protein, calcium, and vitamin D. Try using low-fat Geek yogurt in your sweet potato casserole, mashed potatoes, cheesecakes, custard pies and cream-based dips. Try this recipe for a healthier version of mashed potatoes.
Ashley Acornley, MS, RD, LDN is a private practice registered dietitian and personal trainer in Raleigh, NC.